Political Language Analysis of Health Crisis and Terrorist Attacks

Date of Award


Document Type




First Reader

Dr. Allyson Phillips

Second Reader

Dr. Randall D. Wight

Third Reader

Dr. Ben Sells


The current study examined linguistical differences in presidential addresses following health crises (AIDS/HIV, Avian Flu, H1N1, COVID-19) and terrorist attacks (Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Columbine shooting, Sandy Hook shooting) regarding affective processes and lying words, using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count computer software. The first three presidential addresses given after each event were used for analysis. Results showed significant differences for emotional tone, t(6) = -2.48, p = .048. Specifically, addresses following terrorist attacks utilized more negative emotion words than health crises, t(6) = 4.21, p = .006. Terrorist attacks resulted in significantly more sadness (p = .005) and more, although not significant, anger language (p = .125) but similar levels of anxiety language (p = .745) compared to health crises. There was no significant difference in the use of positive emotion words (p = .956). Additionally, speeches regarding health crises included significantly greater informal language, t(6) = -4.87, p = .003, and nonfluencies, t(6) = -4.70, p = .003, than terrorist attacks. The differences in emotional tone led to differing responses from the public as negative affect leads to action while nonfluencies create anxiety, deterring action. Results of lying words only showed a significant difference for the use of friend words being higher in terrorist attacks, t(6) =2.55, p = .043, which is not enough information to indicate that more lying is taking place in one category over the other.


This thesis is embargoed until April 14, 2023.

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